Better Together: Accepted By Others
After our family, our friends are the next biggest influence in our lives. Repeatedly, they are the first people we go to if we need advice, comfort or we aren’t sure what to say – ‘I couldn’t have dreamed of going to my parents about this, insert issue here,’ is probably a phrase that we have all said before. Our friends often remind us that we are better together.
C.S. Lewis, writes, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”
Do you have wise friends? Are they encouraging you to thrive or drawing you away from God’s potential for your life?
We are all unique. Special. Gifted. This can sometimes be hard to hear as ‘unique’ is often used in such a negative way - or maybe you hear it too much that it’s lost its meaning. But the truth is; we are unique! We are all made differently and so the friends we let influence us and choose to be around will all be different. Do you think of your friends like this?
The writer of Proverbs 13:20 says:
‘Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm’.
Who we are being influenced by, will shape who we become. Who are you being shaped by?
This can be a tough question especially if we have friendships with people that go back years - maybe they started when we began our education or before we came to follow Jesus. But for all of us, we need to make sure we have a balance of Christian friends (those who remind us of our God-given identity and encourage us to deeper relationship with Jesus) and those not-yet-following-Jesus friends (who we can continue to accept, show God’s love and be a testament to a living God working in our lives).
Lacking friends in either of these areas might mean we don’t play our role in either welcoming new followers of Christ into the kingdom, or it might limit our depth of relationship with Jesus because we don’t have those friends who are encouraging us to go deeper when life feels tough.
From the first article of this series, we can be reminded that we are first known and loved by God. For all of us though, we are all still looking to be loved and accepted by those around us - especially our closest friends.
However, acceptance has an evil twin; rejection. We are all trying to avoid it but if we have experienced lots of rejection, it can impact our friendships; who we share with and what we say to our friends.
Romans 3:23 reminds us that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We all sin, we all make mistakes, we all don’t treat each other as we should be treated; none of us are perfect. Verse 24 goes onto say ‘…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ’.
What a relief! So, how do we learn to accept others and allow others to accept us knowing this?
Friendship should be two-sided. We must think and pray carefully about who we are allowing to speak into our lives and who we are sharing our heart with. Their advice has the potential to change the direction of our lives. This isn’t something to be afraid of, but aware. There have been many times in my life that following the guidance of an ‘unwise’ friend could have led me to make decisions with really serious consequences.
Below are some characteristics I use in making good friendship choices.
‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy’. (Proverbs 12:22)
This is at the top of the list for me. I want to be able to trust my friends to keep the desires of my heart and hold me accountable when I need to change my behaviour.
‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
I want to be encouraged in my friendships, to keep my eyes fixed on God when I’m feeling tempted or wisdom in the choices I must make.
‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:12-13)
Jesus already laid down his physical life as a sacrifice, but for us maybe this would look like sacrificing your own time for a friend who is upset.
We can’t make our friends accept us, but we can choose wisely about who we call a friend. We accept others because we are all still a work in progress - despite our sin we are accepted by Jesus. He has accepted us. It’s an active choice we must make to accept people for who they are now and point them to their God-given potential.
God certainly didn’t just leave Saul in the mindset he was in when he encountered him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–19). He showed him the truth of who he was and pointed him to live in his God-given identity.
Why don’t you try praying and asking Him to show you how you can encourage a friend today into their God-given destiny?
Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.